The Role of Obervation in Science
The Role of Obervation in ScienceCareful observation is is critical to science. Until the 16th century philosophers relied on observations of the ancients, for example, Aristotle's observation that cabbages produced caterpillars. In the 17th century Francesco Redi observed cabbages more carefully and noted that caterpillars arose from eggs rather than from cabbages. Since that time increasingly careful observations have greatly improved our understanding of the world.
Techinical advances such as the microsope for observing small objects and the telescope for observing distant objects have increased our powers of observation. As instruments have improved we've observed smaller and more distant objects. As we see more our power to understand and predict the world improves.
Improved theory likewise facilitates powers of observation. Chemistry, for example, improves our ability to observe matter compared with fire, air, earth and water. Germ theory improves our ability to recognize disease agents and treat diseases.
Observation, however, must be tempered by critical thinking. It's important to distinguish relevant observations from the irrelvant. Identifying and characterizing the important variables is crucial to science. Discarding irrelevant variables separates science from pseudoscience.